Meridian International Center and its Global Service Leaders (GSL) initiative honored the legacy and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day of service, held both in the Washington, DC community and around the world, addressing Dr. King’s challenge, “What are you doing for others?"
Meridian’s local GSL team led a progressive service project to Warm Up, DC on Monday, January 20, 2014. In an effort to share resources with those hit hardest by the winter weather, volunteers collected, donated, and shared items to be distributed by Martha’s Table, which offers education, nutrition, clothing, and family support programs. As part of the Warm Up, DC campaign, there were multiple service projects and donation sites occurring along the U Street corridor, between 14th and 16th Streets, NW.
The day opened at DC institution Busboys and Poets with a kick-off celebration and the 2nd Annual Knit-in. Meridian’s Ambassador Stuart Holliday opened the event and welcomed President and CEO of Martha’s Table, Patty Stonesifer, and Presenting Sponsor Pepco’s Chris Taylor, Public Affairs Manager for the District of Columbia Region to share remarks with a standing room only audience. Dwayne B., the Crochet Kingpin, and Fabrica, an Egyptian Musical Theater Group, provided civic-minded poetry and performances as a fitting backdrop for knitters—beginners and experts alike—who worked furiously to create hats and scarves to be donated upon completion. Busboys’ Founder, Andy Shallal, joined the festivities and shared his vision for giving back on this important day of service…and shared a stitch or two to demonstrate his ease with knitting needles.
Back at Meridian, the MLK Pro Bono Dream Lab got underway, with DC Social Innovation Project, IMPACT, and Taproot Foundation DC bringing together skilled volunteers, community members and local organizations for impact through pro bono service. Thirty volunteers engaged with eighteen local organizations for a five-hour event, discussing projects that ranged from designing a new brochure to providing strategic advice on recruiting and engaging board members. This event resulted in about $12,000 in free assistance for organizations making a difference in the lives of DC residents.
Running parallel to the Dream Lab, and also as an effort to promote skills-based volunteerism, the GSL international membership benefitted from a series of virtual mentoring sessions, including a Storytelling Webinar, led by GSL Advisor Reed Sandridge. The webinar highlighted the importance of articulating one’s individual — and organizational — vision and mission through honing storytelling skills. Immediately following, members from Cameroon to Cambodia connected remotely with GSL Advisors for one-on-one coaching sessions to strategize around their personal and professional goals.
While volunteers didn’t exactly don colorful capes for the Super Heroes Writing Workshop, they did heroically support the creative writing workshop for children at the Center for Community Change. Bright young voices had the opportunity to highlight their (super) heroes who inspire them — from Nelson Mandela to a favorite teacher to Spider-Man — and explore, through writing, the reasons why. Volunteers from George Washington and Howard Universities utilized their powers for good to pen letters of support to their own heroes — members of the military and pediatric patients at Children’s Hospital.
Meanwhile, Meridian’s parking lot was transformed into a unique collection site, with the drop-off donation of dozens of unused bicycles and bike parts for Bikes for the World, which works to collect, recondition, and ship bicycles to distribute to those around the world in need of this viable transportation option. Bikes for the World was joined by DC Bike Party - and their amazing sound system - as well as Kasper’s Cargos, who cheerfully shared their cargo bike (and people power) to make multiple pick-ups along our donation route — and help to spread the word about Warm Up, DC.
In perhaps our fastest service project, the Hero (Sandwich) Making Extravaganza, multiple volunteers donned bright blue aprons and assembled 200 sandwiches in record time in support of Martha’s Table emergency food services and McKenna’s Wagon. A second round of sandwich-making (after a quick run to Harris Teeter for additional supplies) resulted in more than 550 sandwiches donated for the hungry—and all created in less than an hour!
Throughout the day, participating neighborhood businesses and organizations served as drop-off destinations for items to benefit Martha’s Table. As incentives to potential donors, many provided “karmic bonuses” such as complimentary mini-cupcakes, in-store discounts, and free fountain sodas. Our warmest thanks to those who supported this endeavor, which resulted in a sizable amount of gently used coats, sweaters, toiletries and canned good items. Our dynamo donation sites include: Cake Love; City First Bank of DC; G by Mike Isabella; Primp Beauty Bar; and Twice As Warm.
With more than 200 volunteers participating in various ways throughout the day, Warm Up, DC concluded with GSL Director, Meg Poole, sharing gratitude with partners, donors, supporters and volunteers over hot chocolate and adorable mitten cookies, provided by Main Event Catering.
In addition to the terrific support of our presenting sponsor, Pepco, Warm Up, DC relied on the generous support of in-kind donations from Extra Space Storage, Harris Teeter, Peregrine Espresso, Spring Mill Bread Company, and for all of our knit-in supplies, we thank Michael’s, Knit for ARC, Knitting Loft, Looped Yarn Works, Aylin’s Woolgatherer, Nature’s Yarns, Woolworks, Yarn Spot, and the Potomac Fiber Arts Guild.